First Manchester strikes to go ahead

Drivers reject pay deal after it is split in two to avoid back pay

Reading time: 3 min

Around 360 bus drivers employed by First Manchester will begin strike action on Monday (July 3) after they voted against a new offer by the company that had ‘strings attached’.

First Manchester’s current offer is split so the drivers would receive approximately half the pay rise in April and half in October. Unite said the company refused to engage in pay negotiations that were supposed to begin earlier in the year and then offered a split payment in order to deny the workers full back pay.

The offer has increased resentment amongst the workforce who were already angry at being paid nearly a pound an hour less than bus drivers at other companies operating in the region. The drivers have also been clear that the difference in pay has caused chronic staff shortages and overwork.

While the current offer would bring the driver’s pay into line, the difference in wages is expected to increase as other bus operators implement their yearly pay increases.

First Manchester can afford to put forward a pay offer that would be excepted by the drivers. First Groups’ 2022 annual report, released earlier this month, shows that operating profits increased by more than £6 million to £226.8 million.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “First’s huge profits show that it does not need to engage in penny pinching by shaving the amount of back pay their drivers should receive. This strings attached deal has caused more anger amongst a workforce that currently receives the lowest rates in the region.

“Compounding the issue is the fact that the lower pay rates makes other companies more attractive places to work, resulting in staffing shortages and increased workloads. Unite’s members at First Manchester are right to take a stand and have their union’s total support.”

Strikes affecting First Manchester services in Rochdale, Oldham, Manchester and Ashton will take place on 3, 4, 7, 10, 11 and 13 July. More strike action will be scheduled if the dispute is not resolved.

Unite regional officer Colin Hayden added, “First Manchester’s claim that Unite isn’t willing to continue talks is untrue. I have told the company we are willing to hold talks today, Saturday and Sunday to resolve this dispute. First Manchester know what they need to do to avoid strike action – put forward an offer our members can accept.”

By Ryan Fletcher